We really admired the ingenuity and energy these people have shown as they work to improve their village economy. Marshaling their limited funds into a village savings group, they have helped families gain access to seeds for their crops. Beyond that, they have now assisted 29 of their 31 households to acquire a buffalo. Admirable accomplishments. Huge accomplishments.
As we explored their immediate needs it became readily apparent that water was the biggest issue they currently face. Simply put, they are incredibly short of water, especially in the upper portion of the village. This shortage severely limits their primary source of income – raising corn for sale to the Chinese market – not to mention their everyday water needs for cooking, normal hygiene, and watering their livestock.
We visited their primary water source near the village community center, located in the upper part of the village. This water comes from a local stream, but as a practical matter it is a very small stream providing a tiny water flow that, unfortunately, becomes even less during the hot summer season.
There is a better water source in the lower portion of the village, but no current ability to move that water to the storage tank in the upper section of the village. They already have a practical, straightforward solution to this problem. One new well, a pump, and a long section of pipeline will do the job for them. So far, they have saved $500 towards the $2,000 budget for this critically important improvement.
So, we made them an offer – in the spirit of helping people help themselves. If they raise another $500 for a total of $1,000 we will match that with another $1,000 to fund their water budget – provided, however, that they use that water to significantly increase their agricultural production and then use some of that increased income to upgrade their pre-school to five full days per week within the next six months.
Their reaction, after a discussion of several minutes (which none of us understood because it was in their Lahu language) was highly positive. Interestingly, they said quite openly that they had never thought to link the two notions – agricultural improvement and education for their kids – and loved the idea. We were generously thanked.
I’ll bet they are ready for our small grant in just a matter of a few weeks if not sooner. These are energetic people dedicated to improving their collective lot.